Beach Access

Beach access is a universal right and necessary for the public’s enjoyment of the beach.

Surfrider Foundation promotes the rights of the public, including all recreational user groups, and members of the community to enjoy low-impact beach access, including the enjoyment of coastal aesthetics.

Surfrider encourages recreational user groups to balance their interests and to work cooperatively with local residents and decision-makers to ensure maximized coastal access for all persons.

Surfrider Foundation’s statement on Beach Access

Access to the beach is threatened every day. The right to beach access is constantly being challenged by private property owners, developers and even sea level rise. From locked gates to restricted hours, from exclusive or inappropriately sited developments to less tangible economic and transportation barriers, the constitutional right to visit California’s beaches requires constant defending. Surfrider Foundation believes that beaches should be accessible to everyone. Our network of chapters, clubs and volunteers are determined to keep our beaches accessible for all to enjoy. 

Surfrider’s official Policy on Beach Access addresses our stance on the many aspects of the issue of beach access.

The Surfrider Foundation views beach access as a universal right of all people. That’s why we will work to secure beach access on every coast so that people of all communities can enjoy valuable coastal resources. Unfortunately, beach access is constantly being challenged. Surfrider’s network is committed to meeting these challenges through community outreach, partnership building, grassroots advocacy and legal strategies.


Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay (2019) Rather than face years in court, the hotel owners negotiated a settlement agreement with the Coastal Commission staff in which they agreed to pay $1.6 million, $600,000 of which will go to the Peninsula Open Space Trust, a Palo Alto land conservation group, to help purchase an adjacent 27-acre property north of the hotel with additional public beach access. The other $1 million will go into a Coastal Commission fund that provides signs, trails, staircases and other amenities to help the public use beaches around the state.

Mandy Sackett, state policy director for the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group, said it seemed like no accident that the hotel has for years not made it clear to the public that anyone can use the beaches and park there, even though the hotel owners agreed to those conditions to obtain the permits to build the hotel.
“Perhaps creating the illusion of a private beach helps justify the exorbitant cost of the rooms,” she said.

San Jose Mercury News

Opal Cliffs, Santa Cruz (2019) Santa Cruz’s private beach now open to all; In a settlement with the Coastal Commission, the Opal Cliffs Recreation District agreed to stop charging beachgoers to use Opal Cliffs beach and keep open the current illegally installed gate during daylight hours and locked only after dark. This is a victory for members of the public who don’t live at the beach, but “the inland resident who checks the weather in Santa Cruz some weekend this month, sees sunshine on the horizon and makes the long trek over Highway 17 to exercise his or her rights.”

YourBeach app, California (2018) Sean Parker built Napster and helped lead Facebook. Now he’ll guide you to the beach. “Jennifer Savage, California policy manager for the Surfrider Foundation, said an app like this could empower more people to explore more of California’s coastline. ‘There are so many places that aren’t obvious, and that’s a huge problem,” she said. “Having an app that just spells everything out is so reassuring, it makes you so much more confident that you’re in the right place.’”

Martins Beach, Half Moon Bay (2018) With the U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of review of the Surfrider Foundation v. Martins Beach I and II, LLC case, Surfrider celebrated a momentous litigation victory that requires open beach access be provided at Martins Beach as it has been for generations. This means the road to the beach must remain unlocked and open to the public until property owner billionaire, Vinod Khosla, applies for and obtains a permit to change access.

Mavericks, Half Moon Bay (2018) The surf contest at Mavericks failed to adhere to the Coastal Act as it historically reduced “access opportunities for a specific subset of people.” In 2015, the California Coastal Commission insisted contest organizers comply with Coastal Act Section 30210, which states that “maximum access… and recreational opportunities shall be provided for all of the people.” Surf contests inherently impact public access by their nature; Surfrider Foundation stood with the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing in demanding a multi-heat Women’s Division in the Mavericks competition as well as equal pay for winners regardless of gender

Strands Beach, Dana Point (2016) Fighting the unpermitted gates on the central accessway through the Headlands Development at Strands Beach in Dana Point has been a major battle for the organization since 2010.  Surfrider Foundation won a major court victory in June 2011 when the San Diego Superior Court ruled the City of Dana Point acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” when passing the urgency nuisance ordinance to close the gates.  The case was finally dismissed after a favorable settlement between the City of Dana Point and the California Coastal Commission.